Homemade fire starters

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In two more sleeps (yes, I’m almost as excited as my four year old), we’re embarking on our second family camping trip, but what I lack in camping experience I make up for in fire starting, which, I hope you’ll agree, is an integral part of a camping holiday. For me, it’s all about the bbq-ing, toasting marshmallows and singing around the camp fire, wrapped in cosy blankets with your nearest and dearest. On removal of the rose tinted glasses, this is, of course, all dependent on the Great British weather not putting a dampener on things, however these nifty little fire starters will definitely get things hotting up.

You’ll simply need a cardboard egg box, enough lint from the dryer to put in each egg compartment and a couple of candles.

Share the lint out between the egg cavities.

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Cut up the candles into little pieces, put in an old container you don’t mind throwing away afterwards, set it in a shallow pan of water and simmer until the wax has melted.

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Pour over the lint and leave to set. Once you’re ready to start a fire, tear a couple off and use them along with your kindling before adding coals/wood. Viola! Easy, cheap and effective!

Smoked bacon and pancake dippers

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Oftentimes I dream food. I’m sure I can taste in my sleep. Occasionally whatever I was dreaming about cooking tastes so good in the dream I have to make it for real. This was one of those times.

I awoke from my slumber thinking I had come up with the most amazing amalgamation of two world renowned breakfast staples, so was slightly disappointed when I looked online and realised that actually my American brothers and sisters cottoned on to this phenomenon a long time ago!

Crispy smoked bacon encased in fluffy American style pancake batter, sprinkled with icing sugar and dunked in maple syrup. OMGOSH, heaven on a plate. I was trying to wait until our upcoming camping trip before making these, but caved when I decided to make the batter ahead of time and freeze it ready to take with us on our jollies.

Firstly, whip up a batch of your favourite American pancake batter.  My go to recipe is here. If you’re using it right away pop it in a piping bag, or a condiment bottle as it makes it easy to shape when cooking it.

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Grill some smoked streaky bacon until crisp. Then set it aside on some kitchen roll to absorb the excess fat.

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Pipe long oval shapes in a greased frying pan, top with a piece of bacon and then cover the bacon in another thin layer of batter.

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Cook over a low/medium heat until bubbles appear in the batter then flip over and cook the other side.

To serve sprinkle with icing sugar, and dip in warmed maple syrup.

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Divine!

I tripled the recipe on the link, poured the rest into a zip lock bag and will freeze it to take with us. If you lie it flat in the freezer it makes it easier to transport as it will stand up in the cooler and there will be lots of space for other meals too. Also, the bag will double as a piping bag when you come to cooking it.

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Elsa doll cake

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When I look at this cake the words “never” and “again” spring to mind. It probably would’ve been a lot easier had I had enough fondant to roll it out slightly thicker. As it happened I didn’t, and the result was that the skirt kept splitting, so under that white cape is actually a complete mess, hence there aren’t any pictures of the icing process. My hands were too sticky and my head to stressy to think about pics! Anyway,  here’s the link to the tutorial I was following, although you’ll notice the end results are pretty different due to the icing saga! I used three quantities of a basic Victoria sponge recipe and baked two in round springform tins and the third in a Pyrex bowl.

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Slice each cake in half and fill with seedless raspberry jam

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Stick each cake on top of each other using buttercream as the glue

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Wrap Elsa in cling from the waist down

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Carve a hole out using a knife

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Stick Elsa in up to her hips.

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Shave bits off the cake to create a skirt shape.

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Cover in buttercream and chill for an hour.

At this point the disasters started so I’m afraid the next pic I have is this one…

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I used flower paste to make the cape, and royal icing for the snow and snowflakes. The main thing is that the little one loved it!

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Here’s what it looked like inside:

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If you’d like to see the last Frozen cake I made (for her last birthday) you can check it out here.

Princess bedroom makeover

Firstly, apologies that I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks. Things seem to have been busier than usual with Easter and a certain little girl’s 4th birthday. Anyway, I’m back now and ready to show you what we did to the little one’s bedroom for her birthday. The only specification she had given us was that she wanted the walls to be purple. From my point of view I wanted to give her a room that was functional, had a decent amount of storage and could easily be adapted to grow with her. My favourite bits of the end result are the beanbag with all her stuffed toys in it, and the Ikea kitchen utensil tubs as storage for her art and craft supplies. The dressing table us the one I revamped with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and you can see that post here if you want.  Enjoy the pics!

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Before

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Before

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Before

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First coats of paint going on.

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New bed going up. Boy it's purple in there!

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Starting to come together

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Art station come dressing table

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Reading nook. Her stuffed toys are in the beanbag

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Drawing on an outline of a tree

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First coat

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First coat done

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Three coats later!

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Fairies and butterflies

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Princess canopy

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Waiting to see her new room

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It's a hit!

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Enjoying a birthday breakfast in her room!

Sweetie cone party favours.

I don’t know about you, but I reluctantly admit I’m not a fan of traditional kids party bags. I’ve done them for P’s previous birthday parties but can’t help feeling like I may as well be setting fire to my cash as I fill my shopping basket with bags of plastic tat, party poppers and those horrifically irritating party blower things. Eurgh!

Bah-humbug you may cry, but this year I’m going down the sweetie cone root. Yes, I realise there’s a huge sugar debate going on at the moment and yes, I admit to feeling a pang of guilt as I think back to a TV documentary I watched last week about five years old having to have their teeth pulled out.  That said, it’s supposed to be a treat, an occasional thing, and it’s up to the parents to implement some sensible rationing (as I attempted to do as we merrily filled piping bags this afternoon.  It was hard when I had this little excited face asking me for,  “just one more” every three seconds!).

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Anyway, here are the finished products. Easter themed as her party falls on Easter Weekend this year.

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Frugal February week 4

Where has this month gone? I can’t believe it has flown by so fast and we’re in our last week of Frugal February. This week is going to be slightly different, as the hubby and I are going away for a couple of nights by ourselves, the first time since before our daughter was born. In fact it’s going to be the first time in her (almost) four years of life that we’ve ever left her overnight with anyone! Some friends of ours from church very kindly bought us a couple of nights away as a Christmas present. We’re so blessed! We’re all very excited, as are my parents who are driving five and a half hours to babysit for us! Anyhow, I only need to plan two meals this week as a result:

Monday: Throw it all in veggie mac & cheese. Using up veggies left in the fridge, a simple homemade cheese sauce and crispy breadcrumb topping.
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Tuesday: Roasted veg and salmon tray bake. Using half a side of salmon we have in the freezer and veggies already in the fridge.
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Wednesday & Thursday we’re away.

Friday: Kubbah hammute. I made extra and froze them last time I made them, so mum is going to make the soup and poach them for when we arrive home.

You might notice I haven’t put any prices on, the reason being I haven’t actually had to buy anything, so actually in one sense this is an extra frugal week, although no doubt hubby and I will enjoy a couple of meals out while we’re away.

What will you be eating this week?

Pancake Day!

Shrove Tuesday! Arguably the best Tuesday of the year, unless of course Christmas happens to fall one.

We love pancakes (crepe style if you’re reading this from across the pond) in this house.  Drizzled with warm maple syrup, smeared in raspberry jam or simply sprinkled with sugar and lemon juice. Delicious!

I use a bog standard recipe of 2 eggs, 100g flour, 50g melted butter and 300ml of milk, although I trippled it as we had friends over this afternoon and a church leaders meeting, which is actually starting in an hour, so I figured I’d make a big batch this morning to reheat as needed. 

I don’t know whether you’re aware of the pancake art craze that’s happening at the moment? There are some truly amazing pancake artists out there! Have a look on You Tube. Anyway, here’s my feeble attempt… Comment below if you can tell who it is!

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I had a happy three year old! Happy Shrove Tuesday!

The day my husband gave another girl a Valentines…

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I have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day.  On the one hand we certainly don’t need a designated day to tell our nearest and dearest we love them, but at the same time it reminds us to pause, take stock and be thankful for all the love in our lives in whatever way, shape or form it may take.

Pb and I came downstairs this morning to this little array of treats, lovingly laid out for us:

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Two cards, two bunches of roses and two lovely little boxes containing two very pretty little necklaces. I was moved.  Not only had DH very thoughtfully bought me gifts he knew I’d love, he also bought our three year old presents as well.  This was much more than just material gifts though.  We want our daughter growing up knowing what it feels like to be cherished by a man.  We want her to see how she deserves to be treated by her spouse. We want her to learn that although marriage isn’t always a bed of roses, with the right person, kind hearts, a bucket load of forgiveness and an unwavering commitment, it can be a beautiful thing.  We don’t want her to settle for anything less. As her parents it’s our responsibility to demonstrate this for her. Her expectations of men will be created largely by how she sees her daddy treat me, and of course by how her daddy treats her. That is a big responsibility on DH’s shoulders.

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Today is tinged with sadness for us too, as it’s the day our twins would have been due to make their entrance into this world, but as I watched my husband lovingly fasten the necklace up for our daughter, I reminded myself that we are blessed. We are loved. We are cherished. We have each other. We have God.  Happy Valentine’s Day.

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Chocolate and vanilla valentines heart cookies

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A friend of mine recently posted a link to Eugenie Kitchen Rainbow Heart Cookies on my Facebook page and I was intrigued.

How on earth did she do it? Was it worth the effort? Could I recreate them at home?

Well, never one to shy away from a food challenge I thought I’d give it a go, but simplify the process by only using two colours, a light pink vanilla dough for the outside and a chocolate heart centre.

I made the cookie dough exactly how Eugenie does it on the video up until she tips out the crumbs to bring them together to form a dough. At this point I split the dough in half and added two tablespoons of cocoa powder to one half.

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Bring them together to form two balls of dough then knead some pink food colouring into the plain one.

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Now roll out the chocolate one and stamp out small hearts using a small cookie cutter.

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Stack the hearts on top of each other to firm two pillars, sticking each heart together with the leftover egg whites. 

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Now wrap in cling and put them in the freezer for half an hour. Once chilled, roll out ‘snakes’ of pink dough and stick them to the heart dough using the egg whites as a glue. 

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Roll the dough gently to smooth it out.

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Wrap it in cling and put it back in the freezer.  Now do the second stack. After they’ve had about half an hour to chill, take them out, slice about half a cm thick and bake at 180oC for about ten minutes.

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Leave to cool on a wire rack and enjoy… Or give them to someone you love!

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Easy homemade sweet and sour sauce

Sweet and sour is one of those dishes most of us love to eat, but few of us know how to make from scratch. The good news is its actually very easy using a few cheats such as good old ketchup!

For the sauce you’ll need:
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1tbsp light soy sauce
2tbsp tomato ketchup
A medium sized can of pineapple rings in juice cut into chunks.
1 tbsp light brown sugar 
2tsp cornflour mixed with a little cold water.

Heat the vinegar, soy, ketchup, pineapple juice and sugar gently until the sugar dissolves, add the cornflour paste and bring to a gentle simmer stiring constantly. Take off the heat and add the pineapple chunks. Leave to infuse while you stir fry whatever veg and meat/fish you want.

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When the meat/fish/veg and done to your liking, taste the sauce, add more sugar, vinegar, ketchup or soy if needed and pour the sauce over the veg.  Serve with rice or noodles. 

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